A/N: Wow, over a year later and one's finally going up! w00t! I really cannot even begin to apologize for the wait, so really I'm not going to try, especially since I know you'd just rather get to the update than to bother with me prattling on apologies that I shouldn't even be allowed to give, let alone even think about being forgiven, so I'm just not going to waste anyone's time and bother.
So, beware of excessive amounts of information being thrown at you in this chapter, which is why it's so long. You get two letters this time, aren't you lucky? That's one reason why it took so long since it's 19 pages in a Word doc, that and every time I went to go work on it I had to basically reread everything I'd already written to remember what other information I was going to hand out...
And for those of you that don't know or care since I saw you...last year. School sucks, o-chem, biochem, genetics, physics, and genetic engineering are hard subjects, especially when most of them are taken in one semester, and taking three lab sciences in college leaves you no time to do anything besides writing ten plus page lab reports three times weekly (and for one of my lab reports, a thirty page lab report). Thirty pages! My chapters aren't even that long! (faints)
Oh, and sorry for the poor quality. I haven't had the chance to read over it yet (leaving tomorrow and all) and I did write this with long gaps in between a lot of it so it may seem a little disjointed and rushed at times (especially towards the end, which I'll probably fix when I get back) but otherwise it's still good. It's really dialogue heavy too, though I think I always remember this being pretty dialogue heavy, since that's the way the information is dictated so I'll let it slide...maybe... Whatever, it's done and that's all I care about right now XD
Anywho, enough useless prattle. I'll see you all on the other side of Disneyland (we're going for the weekend), and have a Merry Christmas for those who celebrate it, hope those who celebrate Hanukah are enjoying it, and a happy upcoming Kwanzaa for those who celebrate that as well. And if you don't celebrate any of those...well...have a happy holidays then! XD
The Desolate Sister
"What was that all about?" Sam asked while Vlad's mansion grew too small for even an ant to inhabit.
"What was what all about?" Danny asked innocently.
"You know what I'm talking about! Vlad and you at the end there! What did he say?"
"Oh, nothing important. Just Vlad getting soft in his old age and giving me some sentimental farewells that he didn't want to say in front of everyone else."
"And you didn't tease him about it?" Tucker gawked.
"It wasn't the time," he replied simply, but with a firmness in his voice that told them the conversation was over. But they could tell he was still blocking something more than Vlad getting sentimental but apparently now wasn't the time to pester him on it. Danny wasn't in the mood to divulge to his friends that after all this build-up of excitement they couldn't accompany him for the final battle.
The rest of the trip to Chicago passed in relative silence, only peppered by brief stabs of conversation usually on Jacob or Tucker's part. But the conversations never lasted long as everyone had much more important things to think about. Manipulator, the sought after prophecy, the safety of their future selves, the clues in the letters, the final battle, there were enough topics to keep their minds occupied that the hour to Chicago passed by quickly and soon Danny was scrounging around in his jumpsuit looking for the post-it note discovered at the start of their journey.
After much navigation through streets and getting lost quite a few times they finally found the address scribbled on the note, landing in front of the Victorian country house just outside of the main city and transforming after making sure that there weren't any onlookers.
"I should have expected this," Danny sighed as his eyes took in the quaint yet flourishing garden lining the house and gated walkway. It was exactly the type of house he always saw her buying, and apparently her husband didn't care too much.
Husband. Oh God.
He froze halfway through pushing the gate open, remembering that Jazz had a husband now, and kids too! He was about to meet his brother-in-law and nieces and nephews! He had been looking forward so much to seeing Jazz, taking the time to prepare himself so he wouldn't be shocked to see her as the Jazz he currently lived with. He had come to terms with his sister having a profession and being married and having kids, but not once did his thoughts stray to those actual individuals, failing to remember that he'd have to meet them too. He wasn't quite prepared for that, prepared to explain to them what he was doing there and not the Danny that should be there, if they even knew about him.
"Danny!" Sam called, jerking Danny out of his thoughts.
"What?" he asked. "You didn't need to yell so loud."
"Yeah well I didn't think I needed to either, until you failed to answer me for the first three times," she snapped.
"Oh…sorry…" he apologized awkwardly, running his hand through his hair both in awkward shame and as a habitual calming of his nerves.
"Me? Oh yeah, I'm fine I just…"
"Not ready to see her all grown up?"
"What? No no, that's not it. I'm good with that I just…I forgot about her husband and kids."
"Oh…yeah…" Sam replied, clearly indicating that she had as well.
"Look, I don't really know Jazz all that well save seeing her once a year but meeting them can't be any more awkward than finding out I'm your daughter right?" Kimberly suggested. They really needed to move inside. After hearing about Manipulator she no longer felt safe just standing in the middle of the street when any human around them could be under his control.
"Yeah I guess…I just don't even know their names or anything…"
Kimberly smiled, placing a gentle hand on his back while starting to nudge him down the tiled path. "Her husband's name is Michael and the twins are Emily and Aiden."
"But do they know about me being Phantom?"
"Now that…I can't tell you. We'll just have to hope Jazz opens the door."
"Yeah, like that hoping worked when we went to Val's house…" he mumbled when they finally reached the door. Noelle, Kimberly, and Jacob stood in back, keeping watch on the street while hiding the time-traveling trio from view as Danny rang the doorbell.
For once luck seemed to be with them as Jazz's bright red hair peeked out from behind the door, still long and flowing with the traditional headband holding it back. As soon as she saw the visitors at her door she gasped, the door shutting on them in her shock.
Danny looked over at Tucker and Sam, fidgeting nervously in the time it took for Jazz to decently compose and convince herself that she really had seen the assemblage at the door. Finally the door opened again, revealing the adult Jazz, aqua eyes tearing at the sight of them.
"D-D-Danny?" she stuttered, hand over her mouth in her disbelieving shock.
If he thought that he had gotten used to all the shocked and awed expressions that came with so many people upon first spotting him, he was wrong. In fact, seeing his sister's previously dull eyes light up in hope, love, and euphoria was even more awkward than the previous reactions. After all, she was his sister, and he knew how close they were now. Who knew how close they had been by the time he grew to the age he disappeared at, after he undoubtedly became more mature and responsible?
"Hey-hey Jazz," he greeted with a weak smile, his eyes starting to tear simply because hers were.
"Oh my God Danny!" she practically bawled, dropping down and hugging him so tightly that the rib-crushing Jack Fenton would have been proud. But counter to his usual complaints he simply just hugged her back just as tightly, realizing how very long it had been since she last was able to wrap her arms around him and to receive en embrace in return.
She bawled into his shoulder for a good few minutes, easily soaking his shirt and staining it from running mascara streaks, but neither of them cared. Brother and sister were united once again, and that was all that really mattered. And once she was done with her brother she extended one arm out for Sam, hugging both of them tightly, joyous beyond description to have her siblings back in her arms.
Finally common sense penetrated into Jazz's emotional state, causing her to pull away from him. "We…we should m-move from the door," she advised, standing on shaking legs to shut the door after ushering them inside. Danny took the opportunity of shuffling bodies to discreetly wipe his eyes dry and anyone who saw him didn't call him on it. Now certainly wasn't the time, especially since many of their eyes would betray them with tears as well.
"Cl-Clockwork sent you here, didn't he?" she asked, grabbing a tissue to dry her eyes and hopefully clean some traces of mascara from her cheeks.
He nodded, knowing that Jazz would figure it out without explanation.
"You're…you're here to bring you back aren't you?" she asked, hope betraying her attempted realistic tone like a professional traitor.
Again he nodded. "Do you think we can talk somewhere more…safe?" he asked, eyes falling upon the red-headed four year olds at the door to the kitchen, both identical save for the gender.
Jazz smiled, face shining as she headed over to her children, bringing them over to finally meet the uncle they had merely heard stories about but unfortunately never been allowed to meet.
"Emily, Aiden, this is your—"
But Danny coughed loudly, interrupting Jazz as she looked at him curiously. He shook his head, again blinking tears from his eyes. He didn't want them to meet him yet, not like this. After all, he was only going to be around for a few hours and he wanted to save their meeting of him for when they actually met the real him for this time period, the one they would grow up recognizing. At four they were far too young to understand something as complicated as this…
"Emily, Aiden, this is my very good friend Danny," she edited, still looking curiously at Danny but knowing a hint when she saw one.
"Like Unca Danny?" little Emily asked, her voice just about melting Danny's heart.
Jazz nodded, swallowing hard to stem the flow of tears even if a few managed to escape her defenses. It was just too adorable and yet heart-wrenching at the same time. "Yes, just like Uncle Danny."
"Mommy, why you crying?" came the little voice of Aiden, exhibiting the natural, innocent perceptions of a child not weighed down by knowledge of the world.
"Oh, Mommy's just really happy to see him, that's all. I haven't seen him in a long time and I've missed him very very much."
"And he's Mommy's fwend?"
"Yes, yes he is. One of my best," she smiled, aqua eyes meeting Danny's tearing blue ones.
"Then he's my fwend too," Emily announced firmly.
"Nuh-uh!" Aiden contested. "He's my fwend!"
"Nuh-uh! He's mine!"
"Mine! He's my bestestest gweatest, coowest, neatest, bestest fwend eva!"
"Well he's my bestestest gweatest…coowest…bestest bestest best best fwend!"
"How about we make this simple," Danny interrupted, now smiling widely at his niece and nephew. "You can both be my bestest friends, if you each give me a hug."
"Okay!" they agreed, feud instantly forgotten as they leapt into Danny's arms while he squeezed them tightly. Just because he didn't want them to know that he was their long lost uncle didn't mean that he still didn't want to be treated like one. His eyes sparkled through the happy tears as he twirled them around, their shrieking giggles drawing one out of him too which soon turned into joyous laughter.
"What's all this ruckus?" a deep yet kind voice asked as he came into the room, the unfamiliar voice startling him, stopping the joyous twirling of his niece and nephew.
But Danny wasn't the only person to be startled, for indeed the newcomer wore the same shocked expression as he stared at the teenager holding his children. His mouth opened and closed like he was trying to get something out, trying to voice his shock.
And Danny knew from the look that he recognized him, that he had obviously seen some picture of him as a teenager. He wondered if they'd ever met, or if Jazz had met him after he disappeared. He wondered what he'd been told, what he'd been able to do to ease Jazz's broken heart.
But before either shocked male could voice their thoughts Jazz took over, making sure no one said anything foolish.
"Michael dear, I'm sure you remember my good friend Danny," she introduced meaningfully, the weighted words falling deaf on the children in their naivety. Michael simply nodded, still gaping at him nonplussed. "Now Danny needs to tell me something important so, why don't you take the kids out for ice cream or something?" she hinted further.
"Aww," they griped in Danny's arms, clutching to him tighter. "We wanna spend time with Fwend Danny!" Emily complained further.
"Oh I know, but it's important sweetie," Jazz insisted.
"Will we see you later?" Aiden asked worriedly.
"No, I don't think so," Danny answered sadly, trying to stay immune to the twins' large, sad eyes. "But a friend of mine will be coming over soon and you can meet him, how does that sound?"
"Okay!" they cheered, hugging him goodbye before climbing out of his arms and into those of their father, pestering him for the promised ice cream. He consented, ready to take them out but Danny definitely caught the respectful nod in his direction, which he returned. He'd meet his brother-in-law later and at the right time. For now, he needed to concentrate on making sure that time could come.
"Why don't we take this into the…into the lounge hmm?" Jazz asked, leading the way into the removed room where they could talk in private. The six sleuths followed, closing the door behind them while Jazz closed the blinds while casting nervous glances down the street. "Did anyone see you come inside?"
"No, we didn't think so," Danny replied.
She sighed, shaking her head. "Just because you don't think so doesn't mean no one saw you."
"God Jazz, you're being more paranoid than me…"
"You haven't been around here like I have; you don't know what this atmosphere's like."
"Well if anyone saw us it's your fault. You're the one that went all water-works on the front doorstep."
She cast glare in his direction, clearly demonstrating that she was far from amused. "Just sit down Danny."
The six of them sat down along with Jazz who simply looked curiously at Danny. "Have you learned anything yet? About the disappearance?"
"A bit yeah," he answered. He cast his eyes about the room in paranoia before continuing. "We found out that it was this really powerful ghost named Manipulator. What he wants we haven't quite figured out yet but he kidnapped Sam and me and is most likely holding us hostage still. We also—"
"Wait…Sam and you? What about Victoria?" she asked, chest clenching in horrified worry.
"Jazz, Victoria didn't go with us."
"What do you mean?" she asked, eyes widening as she feared the worst.
"We didn't take her with us. We hid her with the Jordans."
"You…you mean…" she gasped, wide eyes trailing over to Kimberly who nodded in response to her unasked question. "I…I knew. Or at least…I thought I knew… Every year I just…I had this feeling whenever I saw you… You look so much like him…" she trailed off, eyes tearing before heading over to Kimberly and hugging her tight. "This whole time…you've been my missing niece this whole time…."
She nodded, hugging her newly acquired aunt. "Is that why you'd always cry after seeing me at the funeral services?"
Jazz nodded, pulling away and dabbing at her eyes in the hope to preserve some of her dignity. "Yes. You always reminded me of her."
She laughed, sniffling in the last of her joyous tears. "It's all right. You're forgiven," she smiled. She wiped away what she hoped was the last of the tears, composing herself before turning to Danny. "I'm sorry, please continue."
"Oh, well I was just saying that I found out that there's this prophecy somewhere that's supposed to explain how to finally defeat him, so before we go chasing this Manipulator guy down, we need to find it first."
"But do you even have any idea where it is?"
"Nope. But Vlad thinks I found it and hid it somewhere, so we're just on the lookout for clues that'll hopefully point us in the right direction."
"And how have you been getting all this information?"
"He leaves clues in letters," Kimberly replied. "We've been tracking them down and decoding them for clues on what happened and where to go next."
"I knew it," she groaned. "I knew there wasn't an innocent reason for sending those letters. I thought maybe there was something more to them but I never really looked too deeply into it."
"Tell me you at least kept them," Danny pleaded.
"Well of course I kept them," she snapped. "They were one of the few things I did have of yours, of course I kept them."
Danny bit his lip, looking apologetic as his eyes drifted onto his lap. He kept forgetting that, to everyone else, he had been missing for many years and they hadn't just seen them the previous day like he had. For them, seeing him was a long awaited dream finally coming true, signaling the end of their lamenting sadness where any memory of him was a cherished gift, a piece of him that they no longer had. The thought alone made him feel more like a ghost than he ever had. He was like a long-dead spirit walking among the living, not even realizing he was dead. It was such a hard feeling to grasp but one he knew he needed to. After all, until he did he'd keep making stupid comments without realizing the severity of the feeling behind it, just like he'd done to Jazz.
"Can you get them Jazz?" Sam requested, breaking the awkward silence that had descended.
She nodded, leading over to the mantle of the fireplace. Atop it sat a small Victorian chest that everyone's eyes had just passed over as purely decoration. However Jazz pulled a long gold chain out from around her neck, the thin metal bearing the key to the chest. She opened it, digging through a few pictures of her little brother before removing two folded up letters. She handed them to him with a somewhat embarrassed smile.
Danny accepted them gratefully. There was a comment somewhere about being an overly-emotional sap, but now was definitely not the time for it. He opened them both, selecting the one with the earlier date and began to read aloud.
April 13, 2014
Surprise! Bet you never thought to see this huh? Rummaging through your bills, casting aside annoying junk mail, and then lo and behold! A letter from me, your dear, beloved brother! Whoever said I could be predictable… Well…actually that was you, but frankly that's beside the point.
So…how does it feel to almost graduate? One month left right? One month and then I'll have to start calling you "Dr. Fenton". One month left and then you'll be free from school forever! You're so lucky…although you're probably disappointed right? Just admit it, you know you are. But don't worry, being a psychologist is like that right? Studying and reading and just…lots of stuff that's like school. So in essence, it's perfect for you.
Mom and Dad are super proud by the way. You should hear them going on about you to the neighbors (that should be a clue right there, since they never talk to the neighbors). But there's a lot of "My daughter's just finishing her doctorate!" and "We have a doctor in the family!" all over the place. I was running errands with Mom the other day and she even started bragging about it to the cashier! I'm sure he didn't want to hear about it but did Mom care? Nope. She won't be satisfied until every single person in Amity knows about it, whether it be the cashier at the Nasty Burger or the little boy playing Battle for Middle-earth on his handheld game-station (he ran off crying to his mother about being accosted by strangers…and then Mom went up to talk to her about it too!) You're so lucky you're not here…
But seriously, I think I should graduate with a doctorate now. Just watching all the stuff Mom's buying you…I definitely would like a piece of that. Not that I really need it but still…you're going to get some pretty sweet graduation presents, let me tell you. Books, furniture, money, movies, even a tv! That was Dad's idea, but he says it's because after so much schooling you deserve a break and apparently they're going to make sure it happens. Although I should warn you, I saw Mom trying to stick those ectoplasmic condiments in the box she's shipping to you. She still can't believe that you don't want them. She seems to be under the delusion in her ghost obsessed state that no one in their right mind would deny such novelties. She says that while they can be eaten (ew) they have many other uses. What those are, I am at a loss to answer, but I can tell you that I now refuse to eat anything she cooks that involves one of those three 'novelties', not that I ever really ate anything that she cooks without some trepidation… But really, you should do the same when it comes to this package…
Don't start thinking you're off scott-free from obsessive Mom-nagging though. Now that you've got your education she says there's no reason to put off getting a serious boyfriend. She's got little Victoria to play with constantly and while you'd think that would contain her…nope. She wants another, and guess who she's looking to for it? 'Course I told her you needed to be married first, hence the current push for a solid boyfriend. So yeah, it's kinda technically my fault, but she would have reached the conclusion anyways. But she keeps going on about what would be a good man for you and seriously, she's got a profile laid out and everything. She keeps going on about how you need a good man that you can control, like she does to dad. Someone who will do everything you want without question to make your home life simpler after you get home from work. I said there wasn't a man like that but she was just all "you never know…" Whatever. I think she's way too bored and watching way too many soap operas that feature controlling parents…
By the way, if she knew I was saying all this to you she'd probably kill me completely so…how about we exercise that wonderful new "patient confidentiality" thing you have to abide by and…not tell Mom about my little hints for you, 'kay? This is just loving, brotherly help so that when she finally does call/visit/write/combination of the three, you'll be prepared for what she's got up her sleeve…
Love you lots! I'll see you at your graduation!
"Break it up?" Jacob asked.
"Break it up," Danny verified and Jazz watched in curious interest as the six sleuths gathered around the letter and began analyzing their respective paragraphs.
A few minutes later Jacob spoke up, rubbing his temples. "Alright, I'm done and I hope the rest of you are too because I'm ready to start and hey, I have the first paragraph so I can! And I am happy to report that there is nothing of import in the beginning except for the usual explanation for the reasoning behind sending the letter in the first place." He sighed. "You know, my exceptional mental capabilities are lost on these stupid introductory paragraphs…"
"Yeah, me too," Tucker groaned.
"Not as wasted as mine are. Maybe if someone was willing to switch…" he hinted, looking at each member individually.
"Not a chance."
"You can switch with me!" Tucker offered.
"Nice try Tuck" Jacob acknowledged "but you're just as stuck as I am." He slumped back in his seat, gesturing for the rest of them to continue with their more important paragraphs.
"Well unless there's something important about the doctorate degree, which congratulations by the way, there's nothing really in this one either," Noelle determined.
They nodded, accepting it as true and moving on as always. By now they'd sadly gotten this down to a science.
"I know this is going to sound weird, but I don't think there's anything in this one either. I mean, it refers to your parents, but it's not like we can visit them next or anything since they're kinda…well…missing." She refused to say 'dead'. "I mean, it's not really like you to put three nonsense paragraphs in here like this."
"I dunno, wasn't Vlad's another nonsense one too?" Jacob asked.
Danny shrugged, pulling out the letter from his pocket and skimming through it to the third paragraph. "Yeah, that was me just taking another stab at Vlad, so it wasn't important but it was to be expected."
"How in the world did you remember that?" Noelle asked, shaking her head.
"Just one of the many keys to my success: near photographic memory."
The rest of them just groaned, their attention turning back to the letter's strange contents.
"I know I may be new at this, but I think I see a similarity between the two," Jazz brought up.
"A similarity? With what?" Danny asked.
"Mine and Vlad's letters. You said his was taking a stab at him and that it was practically expected of you in a letter of his right?"
"Right. Don't see what you're getting at though."
"Well wouldn't it be expected of you to write a long letter to me and talk to me about the parents I hardly see and their actions, especially regarding my academic prowess?"
"She's got a point," Kimberly agreed. "You did that before to make the letter seem less suspicious so why wouldn't you do that to this one too?"
"Yeah…I guess that makes sense," Danny conceded. "But let's just not knock this one off as immediately unimportant 'kay? Because I gotta warn you, I don't think mine's got anything important in it either…"
"What?" Jacob asked. "How could the first four paragraphs be nonsense? That's…that's not usual…" he pointed out, scanning the paragraph. "…Wait a minute…isn't this the second mention of that lemon juice?"
Danny snatched the letter back, looking at the paragraph again. Sure enough, actually looking at the word brought memories back, causing him to fumble around in his pockets for the first letter he wrote, the one that had mentioned it the first time. And there it was, the first mention of the ectoplasm. Immediately he remembered sitting around his old kitchen table, searching through the closet for a sample of it only to find that there was none, and then reasoning that there was an important reason for Jazz to have it…
"Jazz, did Mom and Dad ever send you this ectoplasmic lemon juice?"
"Just lemon juice? They sent me a whole crate of that worthless stuff! Ketchup, mustard, relish, even chocolate syrup! I never understood why they sent it because that honestly can't be good to eat."
"I…I don't think it was meant for eating Jazz. I think I made them send it," Danny admitted.
"I don't know yet, but I've made reference to it twice and asked about its purpose. That's got to be a clue, it's just gotta be."
"A clue about what?"
"I don't know yet, but it's definitely something… You still have it right?"
"Of course. Mom and Dad would never forgive me if I threw it away. It's in the attic with all the rest of the worthless ghost stuff they sent me."
"Can you get it? I think we're going to need it for something…"
She nodded, heading upstairs to the attic where she kept all the various ghost inventions her parents had sent her to help 'detox her house of ghost invaders' as they had said.
"Danny, do you really have any idea what it's for?" Kimberly asked.
"None at all, but repetition is key right? People only repeat stuff that's important so this…it has to serve some kind of purpose, it's just gotta."
Jazz returned with it, setting the clear jars of ectoplasmically infused condiments on the table to expose their slightly glowing contents.
"Dude that's like…weird versions of glow in the dark paint," Jacob commented.
"Can you see why I didn't want to eat it now?" Jazz replied.
"Yeah…yeah I can…"
"And it doesn't say anything about what it's used for in the letter?" Sam asked.
"Nope. Just that it has many other uses."
"Maybe it's in another letter?" Jazz suggested. "It would make sense to put all the information pertaining to a clue in different letters, especially if you're trying to avoid suspicion."
"Yeah…that makes sense I guess," Danny agreed. "So…keeping this in mind and moving on?"
They nodded their heads in agreement, turning towards Kimberly for the next paragraph analysis.
"Well, other than talk of a boyfriend this one doesn't really have much pertinent information, which makes me think the ectoplasm thing is even more important since it's like, the only thing mentioned here that isn't just conversational filler."
"Conversational filler? Oh come on!" Jacob griped. "You get the really good paragraph and you don't even do anything with it!"
"Fine, what do you think it means, Mr. Genius?" she asked in aggravation.
"Isn't it obvious? Jazz's husband is in league with Manipulator!"
The room sat in stunned silence, the occupants bearing a look of disbelief and insult.
"Oh come on!" he pushed. "He can control people, so who better to control and pump for information on what the Fentons know by controlling an outsider recently added intot eh family! You didn't have a boyfriend or husband before he went missing, but after you do. Could be a plant. C'mon guys, it's perfect!"
Again, silence permeated the room before Noelle finally found her voice. "I'm really sorry about him Jazz."
"What are you apologizing about?" Jacob asked harshly.
"It's okay," Jazz sighed, completely ignoring him.
"No it's not! I'm not sorry!"
"Jacob, I know how much you love your paranoid conspiracy theories, but this is the first time your stupid theories are actually callous.'
"They're not callous! And they're not paranoid conspiracy theories! It makes sense! If I were him I'd want a plant!"
"It would be completely useless to put a plant in my house. I don't even live near Danny. The Jordans would be better."
"But Danny didn't hint to the Jordans."
"I didn't necessarily hint to Michael either! Maybe I was just warning her to be careful!"
"And maybe half of the other hints are just warnings as well."
"Oh for crying out loud…" Danny groaned.
"Look, I didn't meet Michael for many years after Danny disappeared. By then this Manipulator wouldn't need to collect information because he would have already had Danny."
"What if he was making sure you wouldn't try to find him?"
"It's Jacob right?" she asked, receiving nods from everyone in confirmation. "Look Jacob, I'm a psychologist, one of the best if I may say so myself. I can read people very, very well. Michael is not being controlled by some ghost and he is not a double agent trying to recover information and send it back to this Manipulator. He is just an average guy that got married into our messed up family, end of story. Are we clear?"
"Just one more question."
"What?" she groaned.
"Did you show your husband these letters?"
Everyone else around the room groaned along with Jazz. "No, I didn't. No one's seen these but me. I believe I was asked in a latter letter not to reveal any details to anyone, not even my parents or Tucker. So no, I didn't show him."
"And he's gone right?"
"Yes!" they all yelled.
"Alright, then I'll let it slide."
Everyone groaned while Danny gestured for Tucker to finish up with the letter. They still had two more to go through and it was getting late, especially for the two half-ghosts that had been awake flying through the night.
"Nothing to report, as usual. Hopefully the next one has something better…"
"So are we agreed? Onto the next one?" Danny asked, finding the second letter with the latter date.
"Well since the only real thing of importance is something that needs more clues to figure out, I think it's safe enough to move onto the next one," Kimberly agreed.
He nodded, opening it up and clearing his throat before beginning to read.
August 16, 2014
Hey, it's me again! I know how much you enjoyed getting that letter last time (what was it in…April? You should remember, you're good at random useless things like dates) and I had a few extra minutes so…here's another one! Although frankly I think it's easier to type stuff, since it's a lot faster and you don't end up getting carpal tunnel after it (well, not immediately at least). Seriously, my writing endurance must have fallen dramatically because I can't write nearly as long or as fast as I used to be able to. Blame it on Foley. I do.
I mean seriously, Tucker really outdid himself with it. It's so much better than Windows and way better than a Mac. I can't believe we were using those for so many years, and we actually thought it was good! I mean, Foley's version of Word has slang already programmed in as proper spelling and grammar and actually can tell the difference between a fragment and a sentence! Although, now Tucker's gotten the biggest ego boost ever and he's almost impossible to talk to now, but what can you do? I guess he deserves it, but still. He's kinda like dealing with you now—only joking! I love ya sis!
By the way, he's invited us to his home in Florida to spend some time over the summer if you can make it. I know there's not much left of the summer, especially for you with your prestigious internship and all, but if you can get some time off we'd love for you to join us! We got a babysitter for Victoria so it's going to be just the three (four if you can go) of us, just like old times. It'll be great and it'll give Tucker a chance to brag and boast and show off, which is probably the real reason why we're going. We all know that Tucker likes Florida in the spring and that he thinks it's too humid in the summer, but I've heard from him that it's a really nice house. Something about having a perfect view of the beach and all the swim-suited girls walking along the beach…trust Tucker to pick a view like that… Anywho, should be fun either way! Ringfest Whatever-Number-We're-On is already in the works and I refuse to start it without you there, so I really hope you can come, even if for just a little bit!
And while you're there, you should totally start talking to Tucker about settling down and getting a girl. I think this "big man on campus" mentality of his is seriously getting to him. Every time I talk to him he's going out with some different girl! He says none of them are serious, and they had better not be if he keeps switching them out, but still…it shouldn't be too hard for him to get a good girlfriend and hopefully wife soon enough. I think it would be good for him. So you've got to pull your psychological mumbo-jumbo on him while we're in Florida and see if you can't get him to settle down. Call it whatever you want, fear of commitment, letting his fame get to his head, who knows. But I really think he should settle down.
But it'll be so great to see you again! It was amazing seeing you after your graduation! I forgot how much I loved spending time with you sis! You never really quite realize it until after being apart for so long how much you miss and love them… Sorry, a little deep introspection for the psychology-inclined. But seriously it is true. I really have missed you, so please please try to get off for Florida? Seeing you just at graduation and then not all summer was a cruel teaser and I'd hate to go to Christmas without seeing you again…
All my love and more!
Danny sighed as everyone crowded around this letter as well, dissecting and breaking the letter apart for analysis. Everyone save Tucker that was, who was given the shortest end of the stick he had ever received in that he didn't even get a paragraph to dissect, unless of course the phrase 'All my love and more!' had some hidden meaning to it, a point which he was sure to make clear to everyone while they were making 'important contributions to the team' as he called it. But finally they were ready for yet another dissection.
"Alright, to get right to the chase; considering that we already know to look at the dates for chronological order of events in case that's important, there's really nothing important in this one save for the traditional excuse for sending the letter. Next."
"Definitely referencing Tucker in this one," Noelle stated confidently. "I'm definitely thinking we need to go visit him next, as weird as this is unfortunately going to be for you Tucker."
"Yeah…I was kinda looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time…" he lamented.
"But this whole paragraph references him."
"As does the next one," Sam pointed out.
"So I think that's a pretty compelling argument for him to have the next letter."
"Yeah, it really does. Makes sense I'd give one to one of my best friends too, especially if I gave one to Vlad. So to Tucker after this. Alright, so Sam, next one please."
"Well, at first I thought that this was a Tucker reference, since the whole paragraph's about visiting him, but since Noelle started saying that the paragraph beforehand was, I started looking at it deeper. I think there might be something to do with Florida. Not necessarily with Tucker's summer home, but there might be something important in Florida, like the location of Manipulator's lair or the location of the prophecy that you hid."
"Ooh, nice one Sam, good spot," Danny complimented excitedly. "We should definitely look into hitting up Florida after we finish chasing the path of the letters. And I think my paragraph seconds that notion. It's like Sam's, all about Tucker and his summer Florida home, and getting a girlfriend which isn't really important."
"Uh, hello?" Jacob asked in disbelief, not believing they were missing the hint again.
"Tucker's not dating anyone," Jazz told him with a sigh. "Apparently he didn't take the suggestion too seriously…"
"Alright fine, there goes that theory…" Jacob pouted.
"So, another mention of Florida at the end of my paragraph," Kimberly announced, moving on before Jacob had a chance to go off on his theories again. "But aside from that I don't think this one's that important. If anything I think it was more a hint to the past Jazz than it is to us now."
"What do you mean?" Jazz asked in curiosity.
"Well he goes off on how much he wanted to see you before Christmas and how much he liked seeing you at graduation, so apparently he was hinting to the fact that he wanted to see you before he disappeared. It's…it's kinda proof that he knew ahead of time if you want to think of it like that. He knew he most likely wasn't going to be around by Christmas so he wanted to see you one more time before that."
Jazz slumped in her seat, head to her forehead in disbelief. How had she not seen that? How had she missed that? She, the noted psychologist who could read people better than she could read herself? She had missed this clue when some sixteen-year-old had seen it. Of course vision was always better in hindsight which gave Kimberly the advantage, but she still should have seen it, she should have.
"You…you didn't go did you? To Florida?" Danny asked sadly, noticing the tears in her eyes.
She shook her head, dabbing the tears with a tissue as she tried to contain herself. "I-I…I went but not…not for the who-whole time. I…I couldn't get off work for that…that long," she sniffled. "It…it was only for two days. I mean I…I knew all this time that it was the…the last time I had seen him and I…I cherished the memory of that day all this time, Tucker too but I…I wish I could've known you know, beforehand. All the…all the things I could have said, all the questions I could've asked, all the things we could have done and now here's proof that I…I could've known…" she finished, crying by the end into her tissue.
Danny stood from his seat, sitting next to his sister as he wrapped his arms around her in an unusual sign of affection for one his age. "Look Jazz it…it's okay. I'm going to rescue myself and then it…well it really won't matter if you ever got to say your final goodbyes or not. Besides, I don't think I would've wanted you to know to be honest. I would have rather spent time with you as you, not filled with sorrow knowing it was the last time I would have seen you. I mean, it would have been bad enough knowing it without actually having to make it seem like it."
"I-I…I suppose but it…it's still hard to…to accept."
"I know…I know," he comforted, hugging her tight. "I'm so sorry Jazz, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have kept all this hidden like I did. Clearly I knew about this for awhile if I sent this note in April but I…I never told anyone or asked for any help. I don't know why as of yet, maybe out of fear of what Manipulator would have done, but it would have been easier on all of you if you'd have known and I'm sorry."
"N-no it…it's okay. It's plausible deniability isn't it? If we didn't know about it then it…it couldn't be used against you whether by will or not. No you…you were right to keep us in the dark and I don't think any of us blame you for it. I know I don't."
"Thanks Jazz," he smiled, keeping her held close.
"Thank you for coming back Danny. I've missed you."
"I know. It'll all be over soon, don't worry. We're so close to being done, so close."
She nodded, battling with herself quietly as she nested in her brother's comforting hug more like a little sister rather than a much older one. "Danny there…there's something I need to—"
But she was interrupted as the door to the salon burst open, revealing a very familiar face, one that left the sleuths stunned with surprise, not expecting to see the smiling face there at all.
A/N: Ah, don't you miss these? I know you do. Well, I know I do at least XD May not be up to my usual standards, but I had to stop this monster chapter somewhere.
So..."Holy amount of information Batman!" XD Told you there would be. Lots and lots to seep through, lots of unexpectant treasures to find, lots of connections yet made (you do have all the information to discover the use of the ectoplasm infused condiments by the way, if you're keeping track of all the clues XD), and lots of red herring clues too. Keep a sharp eye out XD God I missed these...